El Chapo asks Mexican president for help: ‘I haven’t seen the light of day’

In a letter delivered to Mexico’s ambassador to the United States via his attorney, the imprisoned drug lord protests his living conditions. He is asking President López Obrador to intercede

Pablo Ferri
Joaquín 'el Chapo' Guzmán, durante su traslado a Estados Unidos para ser encarcelado, el 19 de enero de 2017.
Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, during his transfer to the United States to be incarcerated, on January 19, 2017.PGR

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán – one of the most famous drug traffickers in history – continues to dominate current events.

Imprisoned for life in a maximum security prison in Colorado, El Chapo – whose son, Ovidio Guzmán, was recently taken into custody by Mexican authorities in a bloody arrest – is now protesting his living conditions, via a letter delivered by his attorney, José Refugio Rodríguez.

In a letter to Esteban Moctezuma – the Mexican ambassador to the United States – El Chapo denounces alleged illegalities in the extradition processes that saw him transferred north of the Rio Grande more than five years ago. But above all, the document is a protest letter, asking for his living conditions to be improved.

“I have not seen the light of day,” writes El Chapo. His attorney, Rodríguez, disclosed the details of the letter to Ciro Gómez Leyva, a prominent Mexican journalist, on his radio program.

In September 2021, the drug trafficker submitted an affidavit before a US court to complain about the same issues: cruel treatment, solitary confinement and little attention being paid to his medical problems. Released publicly months after it was posted, it read: “I have suffered a lot. Due to the treatment in ADMAX [the name of the prison where he is serving his sentence] I now suffer from headaches, memory loss, muscle cramps, stress and depression.”

The former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel is calling for the Mexican government to intercede on his behalf. He is specifically asking Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to look into what was done under his predecessor’s watch.

During the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) – after El Chapo was recaptured after two prison breaks – the leader of the PRI party had the drug lord flown to the United States. According to El Chapo’s attorney, this violated the extradition law between the two countries: “He is asking López Obrador to take the violation of human rights incurred by the Peña Nieto government – specifically, by [Luis] Videgaray, then-secretary of foreign relations – into account. He was handed over in flagrant violation of the law so that he could be tried in New York, without having the opportunity to defend himself in Mexico,” emphasized Rodríguez during his radio interview.

The moment that Guzmán’s defender has chosen to speak is interesting. Just this past Tuesday, one of the most anticipated trials in recent years began in New York City. The former Mexican secretary of public security – Genaro García Luna – is about to be prosecuted for acts of bribery, organized crime and drug trafficking that took place during the right-wing administration of ex-president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), who began the war against the drug cartels.

Prosecutors allege that the former security chief collaborated with the Sinaloa Cartel, which was led by El Chapo, among others. On multiple occasions, López Obrador – whose inner-circle has also been accused of taking bribes from Sinaloa – has claimed that Calderón defeated him with the help of fraud in the 2006 presidential elections.

In May 2019, El Chapo’s mother – María Consuelo Loera – also sent a letter to President López Obrador, asking him to intervene in her son’s case and challenge the American authorities. She also asked him to please allow the drug trafficker to be able to receive visits from his relatives.

Around that time, the president – who has maintained a cordial relationship with El Chapo’s mother over the years – greeted her during a visit to the state of Sinaloa: “I gave instructions… so that his sisters may go visit him, in accordance with the laws and regulations they have [in the United States].”

It is unknown whether the president’s efforts resulted in changes to the conditions of the narco’s imprisonment. In any case, El Chapo has turned to the power of the written word once again.

“Since Guzmán arrived in the US, he has been confined, receiving cruel treatment,” reads the letter, which is signed by both El Chapo and his lawyer.

“He has been isolated, with no contact with other people, segregated in a cell, with the guards not being allowed to communicate with him in Spanish. This is an offense against human dignity, a violation of human rights and fundamental freedom,” Rodríguez notes.

“In the six years that Guzmán has been in prison, [the authorities] have never taken him out of his cell to get sunlight, not even for a minute. From March 2022 to date, they have only authorized six or seven calls with his lawyer.”

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